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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
National reforms in higher education


14.Ongoing reforms and policy developments

14.4National reforms in higher education

Last update: 11 April 2024


The Ministry of Education and Culture in Finland is investing EUR 255 million into piloting new practices in doctoral education in 2024-2027

This action is part of Finland's strategy to enhance international competitiveness, foster innovation, and better utilise research-based knowledge. The doctoral education pilot is part of an increase in research and development funding, aiming to raise R&D funding to 4% of the GDP by 2030.

This initiative will fund 1,000 doctoral researchers with three-year employment contracts to complete their degrees. The funding will support 15 field-specific doctoral education pilots. Among the fields are for example cancer medicine, artificial intelligence, and social services, with the largest pilot in software development education involving 49 doctoral researchers across 9 universities.

Doctors are traditionally educated for service in universities, but one of the goals with this pilot is for an increasing number of doctors to also work in the private companies in the future. The expertise of doctors is utilised more widely in many European countries than in Finland.

The first doctoral researchers will begin in the field-specific pilots in August 2024. The Ministry of Education and Culture will establish a monitoring group and a research evaluation project for the doctoral education piloting.

The pilot will increase the number of doctoral candidates. Between 2024 and 2030 more than 2,000 doctorates each year is needed to R&D work. In Finland 1,623 doctoral degrees were completed in 2022.

More information

Ministry of Education and Culture:

Research Council of Finland:



Changes suggested to the grade scoring of the university admission based on a general upper secondary certificate

Completion of upper secondary education, both general and vocational, gives students eligibility to continue to higher education. Higher education student selection was reformed in Finland in 2018. In the reformed admission system, majority of students are accepted to university or university of applied sciences based on their matriculation examination results - general upper secondary education ends with a national matriculation examination. The rest are accepted on the basis of an entrance examination. The aim of the reform was to speed up the transition from upper secondary to tertiary education and to strengthen the role of the matriculation examination instead of entrance examination.

The reform has aroused criticism. One subject of criticism has been that mathematics grades are now given too much weight in relation to other subjects in the selection of students. 

Rectors’ Council of Finnish Universities (UNIFI) has proposed a new scoring model for the certificate-based admission to universities. The new scoring model is to be used in student admission from 2026 onwards.

The overall aim of the changes is to clarify the certificate-based admission scoring: it should better demonstrate the proficiency of those general upper secondary subjects that are needed in the field for which student is applying. Another aim is to give general upper secondary students better opportunities to select subjects for matriculation examination according to their own preferences.

In the new scoring model, native language would give more points in admission than at present. Languages would also give higher scores in admission in the future. Some of the differences in scoring between humanities subjects and natural sciences subjects will be eliminated in the new model.  Mathematics would also in the future give high scores for all fields of study, but the weighting of mathematics syllabuses would more clearly depend on how important the mastering of advanced mathematics is for the field in question.

Finland is of greater interest to international students than earlier

Granted study-based residence permits in 2022 and international applicants to higher education programmes in 2023 shows that Finland has become more popular to international students.

The number of international students moving to Finland grew significantly in 2022

The number of international students moving to Finland increased significantly in 2022. More than 7 000 new students from outside the EU had been granted to a residence permit by the end of October 2022. The number of study-based residence permits increased 45 % compared with previous year (January-October 2021). The number increased considerably even when comparing with the pre-COVID years. Most of the foreign students study at a higher education institution.

One reason behind the increased numbers is the reform in legislation as of April 2022. The reform made moving to Finland easier for students from abroad because the students may be granted a residence permit for the entire duration of their studies. Before the reform students could only be granted a residence permit for two years at a time. In addition, the new law also made it easier to stay in Finland and to look for employment after graduating as it is possible to apply for a two-year residence permit for searching for work.

According to Finnish Immigration Service the new rule on residence permits sends a strong signal to international students that they are welcome to stay and work in Finland. 


In 2023 international applicants to higher education study programs increased

Slightly less than 62 000 students applied for English-language higher education programmes for 2023 through a joint application system.

The number as well as the share of international applicants has increased for some years but this year the increase was higher than ever. Compared with 2022 the share of international students’ applications doubled. Most of the applicants are other than Finnish nationality and more than 50 000 are from outside the EU/EEA -area.

The interest in higher education in Finland and the increase in the number of applicants is due, among other things, to the reform of the student’s residence permit in the spring 2022. There has also been active student recruitment and country branding work.

In addition, one reason why the number of applicants has increased is a joint digital entrance exam, International UAS exam, which was introduced in 2022. Applicants participate in only one entrance exam, and its result is considered by all the study programmes that utilize International UAS exam. This digital entrance examination makes it easier for international students to apply to a programme through the joint application.



Updated vision for international activities in Finnish higher education

An updated vision for international activities in Finnish higher education has been published. The vision is a follow-up to the policies for strengthening the international dimension of Finnish higher education and research 2017-2025, which was adopted during the previous government term.

The vision is drawn up by the forum appointed by the Ministry of Education and Culture for strengthening the international dimension of Finnish higher education and research together with stakeholders. The purpose is to guide different actors, such as higher education institutions and agencies in the Ministry’s remit, towards the essential themes identified in the vision.

The vision highlights five overall objectives:

  1. Finland, a society guided by values and principles
  2. Finland, a competitive economy that attracts talent
  3. Finland, a responsible and receptive nation
  4. Finland, an agent in resolving sustainable development challenges
  5. Finland, a country that builds on cooperation

Updated vision:

More funds for developing study opportunities for beneficiaries of temporary protection in higher education


The Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture allocates EUR 5.5 milloin to support higher education institutions in their efforts to provide more study opportunities for beneficiaries of temporary protection. The funds will be used to finance the provision of English-language education and to increase preparatory education for higher education for immigrants in universities of applied sciences.

The aim is that the resources will also help to increase the supply of culturally bilingual degree programmes. In these programmes, language instruction is an integral part of the core studies. This helps the future graduates to find a job in Finland at the language proficiency level that their profession requires.

The funding is part of the action plan to support Ukrainian higher education students and researchers. This funding also aims to support the individual study paths of beneficiaries of temporary protection. Students may continue higher education studies that they started in their home country or enrol for higher education studies in Finland by completing modules that can be used as accreditation for a degree in either Finland or Ukraine. Higher education studies prepare and support the reconstruction of Ukraine and respond to the shortage of skilled people in Finland.

A total of 21 projects across Finland is financed. The funding decisions take into account factors such as the educational profiles of different higher education institutions, the educational needs of beneficiaries of temporary protection and the needs of different regions and industrial sectors in Finland.

More information:

Evaluation on introduction of tuition fees to non-EU/EEA student: fees did not halt the internationalisation process of higher education institutions

The working group set up by the Ministry of Education and Culture to monitor and assess the introduction of tuition fees in higher education has completed its work. According to the working group evaluation report, the introduction of tuition fees has not had long-term adverse effects on making higher education institutions more international or on the willingness of non-EU/EEA students to study in Finnish higher education institutions. 

The number of international students fell immediately after tuition fees were introduced, but the number of new foreign students now exceeds the level preceding the introduction of the fees (5 800 in 2020). Non-EU/EEA citizens still constitute a clear majority (75 %) among new foreign students in Finnish higher education institutions. The provision of foreign-language degrees has increased in higher education institutions, international student recruitment and marketing have become systematic, and application and admissions systems have evolved to cater to international needs.

According to the evaluation, different higher education institutions have made different choices regarding the introduction of tuition fees and international student recruitment. Not all higher education institutions have the same numbers of international students enrolling as before, and tuition fees are not deemed a significant source of revenue in all higher education institutions. 
The tuition fees sums charged by higher education institutions varied between EUR 4,000 and EUR 18,000. The most common single fees were EUR 6,000 and 8,000 for universities of applied sciences and EUR 8,000, EUR 10,000 and EUR 12,000 for universities. Higher education institutions use a broad range of grant and scholarship systems. 

The working group does not propose amendments to the legislation. The group considers it viable that the legislation leaves the higher education institutions the power to determine the amount of tuition fees and their practices for grant and scholarship systems. However, higher education institutions should ensure that the tuition fees and grants and scholarships as a whole work in such a way that the tuition fees cover the costs of the education and provide higher education institutions with a wider funding base for broadening their international scope. 

Evaluation report in Finnish



RDI roadmap and its objectives

The National Roadmap for Research, Development and Innovation, adopted by the Government in spring 2020, consists of a set of measures to develop the RDI operating environment. The roadmap provides guidelines for sustainable growth and wellbeing as well as for increasing the volume and the level of ambition of R&D activities. The goal is to increase R&D expenditure to 4% of GDP by 2030.

Wide-ranging raising of competence levels

1. At least 50% of all young adults in Finland will have completed a higher education degree by 2030. To achieve this goal, higher education intake will be increased until 2030. The Ministry of Education and Culture will agree on the necessary measures with higher education institutions.

2. Through broad-based cooperation, more foreign students and researchers will be recruited into Finnish higher education institutions. To meet competence needs, the goal is for the number of new foreign degree students to gradually triple (15,000) from at present by 2030.

3. Higher education institutions, research institutes and regional actors will integrate international experts into higher education institutions, Finnish society and working life in cooperation with the business community and public sector employers. The goal is for 75% of foreign students who have completed a bachelor’s or master’s degree to be employed in the Finnish labour market by 2030.

4. The Ministry of Education and Culture will implement a process to reform the education responsibility system. The aim is to give higher education institutions better opportunities to meet the competence needs of society and working life. The process will specify quality criteria for the allocation of educational responsibilities, taking into account the links between education and research, development and innovation.

5. The Ministry of Education and Culture and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment as well as higher education institutions and other educational institutions will ensure that the parliamentary reform of continuous learning takes into account the RDI competence needs of industries, including high productivity sectors. Utilising foresight information, education will be targeted multisectorally at the needs of the business community and other societal needs.

6. The Ministry of Education and Culture and the Academy of Finland will continue to support the profiling of universities and universities of applied sciences in their strong areas of competence.

7. Together with the Academy of Finland, the Ministry of Education and Culture will prepare and implement further measures on the international assessment of the Academy of Finland, which will be completed in 2022.

Research careers, international experts and mobility

8. The measures of the 2021 report by the Ministry of Education and Culture’s working group on research careers will promote the utilisation of doctoral expertise in society more widely than at present. The measures will diversify the career paths of doctors and promote mobility and placement in different sectors of society. The aim is also to raise the education level of companies’ personnel. A report on the implementation of the measures will be made in 2024.

9. The Ministry of Education and Culture will examine the current arrangements for researcher education. At the same time, a study will be conducted as to whether the current regulation of the degree system also meets practical needs in researcher education.

10. In 2021–2022, the Academy of Finland will explore reforming the forms of funding for young researchers to support research work and careers.

11. The arrival in Finland of foreign students and experts will be streamlined.

i. Business Finland and the Finnish National Agency for Education will use Work in Finland and Study and Work in Finland services to support the recruitment of international students and the hiring of international experts for higher education institutions, research institutes and companies.

ii. Led by the Ministry of the Interior, a preliminary study will be made on a comprehensive reform of legislation on aliens (and permit procedures). The potential comprehensive reform would be implemented in the next government term. In cooperation with ministries, permit practices and the customer path (including Virtual Finland) will be digitalised in order to streamline work- and education-based immigration.

iii. Business and employment services will support the recruitment of international experts into Finnish innovation and growth ecosystems.

Broad-based utilisation of competence in RDI activities

12. The Ministry of Education and Culture, the Academy of Finland and higher education institutions will utilise, where applicable, in their activities the content and recommendations of a study to be completed in spring 2022 on the promotion of the equality, non-discrimination and diversity of teaching and research staff.

13. The Ministry of Education and Culture will support actors in science education and promoters of science competence in, among other places, science centres and teacher education. The objective is to deepen and expand citizens’ problem-solving abilities and understanding of the development of science, with the aim of promoting learning and Finland’s competence-based growth.

14. According to the vision of the National Strategy for Mathematics, Science and Technology (LUMA), both the individual and society will benefit from the growth of LUMA skills and competence in terms of increased wellbeing and sustainable development. Led by the Ministry of Education and Culture, an action plan for the strategy will be prepared in broad-based cooperation with stakeholders in 2022.

15. The Ministry of Education and Culture will commission an evaluation of the operating model of the Year of Research-Based Knowledge 2021 and the implementation of its objectives during 2022.